Title Once Upon a Kiss
Author Rachael Tamayo
Publisher Foster Embry Publishing
After her fiance abandons her on their wedding day, Talia is determined to keep her dignity intact. With her brides-maids in tow, she walks off with her head held high. Talia expects to cleanse the bastard from her system with some Tequila, maybe flirt with a hot cowboy-but what she doesn’t expect is to run right into an old flame.
Seeing Jessie again, Talia realizes that some sparks never quite go out.
Unfortunately, it seems that her ex wasn’t finished destroying her life, and the next bomb he drops leaves her devastated. Once she finds out what part Jessie is playing, and the truth behind his motives, everything will change. Talia will be left with a choice that will change everyone’s lives.
Once Upon a Kiss is a reverse fairy tale. No need to come rescues the princess this time around, this time it’s her turn to save the day.
Just take a deep breath. 1… 2… 3… 10… exhale.
My stomach rolls, a twisted combination of rocks and butterflies. I think the butterflies are strip mining in my stomach, pissed off at the three mimosas that I drank while getting my hair and make-up done. They did nothing to calm my nerves. Now I stand in the bride’s room at a church I don’t go to, staring into a full-length mirror at a reflection of me in a white wedding dress.
Late afternoon sun shines through the window, lighting up the lovely room in the middle of which I stand, hyperventilating, moments before I walk down the aisle. Hair, make-up, my dress, all is perfect. It's everything I dreamed of. A fairy-tale wedding.
I’m wearing my dream gown. Drop waist, shirred and beaded, heavy as hell. My boobs look tastefully amazing, my olive skin making the white pop even more.
My dream man to go with it… right?
Somehow, I don’t think I feel like I’m supposed to right now. I’m not excited, I’m scared to death. I’m not eagerly looking forward to staring into his eyes at the altar, I’m downing another mimosa. It’s almost six in the evening, my wedding starts in less than ten minutes.
Crap, I can't breathe.
Get a hold of yourself, it’s just cold feet.
Heavily, I sit on a tufted, cream colored, padded bench and look heavenward. “Mom why aren’t you here today?”
On cue, there is a knock on the door. My maid of honor, Beth, comes fluttering into the room in a sea green gown that makes her hazel eyes look bright green. Her blond hair is curled to perfection, hanging long down her back, curls bouncing with every step as she shuts the door and moves towards me. She halts, sighing as she assesses my appearance.
“Did you find my dad?” I go to stick a French-manicured nail into my mouth to chew, but I stop myself on time.
“He’s coming. I talked to your uncle, he said he’d get him and send him. You ready? Oh, Talia, you look so gorgeous.” She breathes the last, her hands on her chest as if she's trying to hold her heart in. I smile.
I shake my head, my hair fluttering around my shoulders. What would be jet black hair is dyed brown with blonde highlights, cut in pretty layers to my shoulders. Today it's accented with my late mother’s antique veil. Lace made by my great-grandmother, I chose my dress around this veil to make sure it would match. My father saved it for me, for this day. He sat me down and presented it to me in a box long ago, stored away by my mother. I cried, he cried. It was a moment I'll always remember.
“Not even a little bit.” I breathe in and out deeply, glancing around as I wonder why it seems to be getting hotter in here.
Beth smiles, sitting beside me. “I can imagine. I’d be nervous, too.”
“What if I’m making a mistake?”
She grins. “Well, then you will remember for your next wedding, I guess.” She laughs at her own joke. I raise an eyebrow at her.
"Very funny, but I'm serious."
Her smile flattens out and her brow furrows. "Are you really having doubts?"
"I think so. I'm not sure if it's just cold feet or what. How am I supposed to tell the difference?"
She thinks for a minute before answering. "Aren't you excited at all?"
"More nauseated than excited."
The knock on the door turns both our heads, it opens, and my dad walks in. A handsome man in his early fifties. Fifty-three if I must be exact, with a Mediterranean complexion, dark hair, dark eyes. The black tuxedo he's wearing makes me smile, almost wishing he'd marry again and find some happiness of his own, but he says there's no room in his heart for anyone but my mom. He stops in his tracks with his hands still on the doorknob.
He gasps. “Talia, you look just like your mother.” The flood of emotion in his eyes almost brings tears to mine.
But then I remember I’m scared out of my wits, and the tears subside.
I flush, glancing down. I’ve only ever seen her picture, she died when I was a baby in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. It’s why we came to America, leaving behind our homeland for a safer place. My dad said that he couldn’t risk my life after losing her. So here we are. Born in Jerusalem, now citizens, getting married.
All grown up.
“Do I?” I stand up, looking in the mirror again.
“Yes. She would be so proud of you… but…” He hesitates in his thick accent.
I look up, waiting.
“Talia… your Stephan has not come. He sent his best man to tell you he…” He takes a deep breath. “He’s not coming. He’s moved out of your apartment.”
I fall back to the bench behind me, stunned. “What? He’s . . . stood me up?” The sickness in my stomach fades as the words sink into my confused brain.
“I’m afraid so. Love, I’m so sorry.” Reaching for me, he takes my hand in his.
Stephan is gone. Really gone. As in, I’m going home to an empty apartment for the first time in over a year. I just spent all day getting ready for my fairy-tale wedding for practice for the next time, I guess.
But I've got over one hundred people sitting out there, all dressed up, waiting. And the money . . . oh crap, the money. I put a trembling hand to my forehead.
“Daddy . . . Oh, you spent so much money . . .” I stand up, looking down at my dress, which on its own was over three-grand.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about that. You can come to stay with me for a while if you need to . . .”
I look up at him then over at Beth. She is wide eyed and looks ready to cry. Her hands over her mouth, eyes shining. “Stay with you? No. No, that’s not necessary. Thanks.”
The reality of it all sinks in slowly. No Stephan. No Mrs. Stephan. No little baby Stephans running around. He’s gone, moved out, I’m on my own.
Oh, thank God. The sickness in my gut vanishes, the weight on my shoulders fades, and the screaming voice in the back of my head finally stops yelling and flops down, cracking open a beer in relief.
The first giggle that erupts surprises me more than it does them, but the harder I laugh, the stranger they eyeball me. I double over, my sides hurting, and my dad finally starts to smile, accenting his crow’s feet.
Beth blinks away her tears, raising an eyebrow at me. “Well, I guess she’s taking it well.”
“I’m so relieved.” I gasp, standing up, clutching my sides.
“Why were you—” she begins to ask. I don’t even let her finish, that’s how much I need to get it off my chest.
“I don’t know. Deep down I felt like something was off, but I thought it was cold feet. I’m not even sad, more embarrassed that I have to go tell the guests what happened and return all those gifts.”
“I’ll tell them. Don’t worry about that.” My dad pulls me into a hug, kisses my head and walks out.
“Let me help get you out of this dress.” Beth sighs, rising and kicking off her high heels.
I turn to her. “Are you nuts? This dress cost my dad a fortune, and I’m wearing it. Get the girls, we are going out. We already have a limo. I’m drinking this night away.”
She looks down at her dress, then back at mine. “You want to go bar hopping, like this? Are you nuts?”
I grin at her. “Yes, yes I am.”